Kings & Thieves: Geoff Tate’s sophomore solo album is a welcome return to hard rock.
Review by David Boyle
Vocal icon Geoff Tate’s first solo album, Geoff Tate (Sanctuary-2002), showcased his potential — and then surpassed it. As was evident in each song, he tinkered with years of experimentation and shared with his fans a combination of musical textures. He embarked on an extensive tour and played night after night for enraptured audiences, showing that he was more than merely a metal performer and proving unequivocally that his creations couldn’t be placed in any one category.
A decade has passed. Fortified by diligence and artistic progression, Tate has achieved yet another alternative sound — alternative for him, that is — and a welcome return to the hard rock kingdom. Geoff Tate presents Kings & Thieves (Inside Out Music-2012).
Though, in my opinion, the opening track is not one of the more exciting songs on the album, “She Slipped Away” serves the purpose of getting the listener warmed up for the heavier numbers that come after it. I’m not entirely certain what’s missing from this particular tune but, in time, hardcore fans will formulate reasons of their own, as always. As is sometimes the case with Tate’s music, repeated plays will help the listener uncover the pleasures and intentions of a song that went unnoticed the first time. I have no doubt the virtues of “She Slipped Away” will soon be discovered and savored.
Much like its attention-grabbing title, “Take a Bullet” begins with a crunchy rock sound, a tempo that die-hard fans have been eager to hear from their beloved vocal stalwart for some time now. I thoroughly enjoyed the urgency of this song, although at the end I would have preferred more lyrics instead of the repetition of the line “I’d take a bullet.” In spite of this quibble, the song is bound to get lots of airplay and become a crowd-pleaser on the current tour.
Tate frequently incorporates various musical influences which bring about fresh, unpredictable sounds. Not all of his music is composed exclusively for the headbanging community. “In the Dirt” — a fine example — might encourage listeners to shake a bit; that’s right, folks, dare I say it? Dance! Too bad I lack coordination and rhythm myself, because this tune would draw anybody out of their chair and have them moving across the floor. I like music that takes me in unexpected directions, revealing layers which make it nearly impossible to classify. Not every song on a rock album has to be hard, heavy and fast to be dynamic and entertaining and few seem to realize the possibilities of such freedoms better than Tate himself. The lyrics on “In the Dirt” are a bit trite for my tastes, I’m sorry to admit, and a far cry from his capabilities as an eminent songwriter. Overall, though, the music satisfied my ear.
Lyrically, “Say U Luv It” is not a memorable track. On the other hand, the music has a lot going for it and solid musicianship is present throughout. It seems to me that since Queensrÿche’s Cabaret Tour back in 2010 Tate has become increasingly confident in composing lyrics laced with sexuality, a choice one would have expected from an 80s hair band or a flavor-of-the-month boy band — not from one of rock’s most versatile lyricists. Regardless of what inspired Tate to dabble in such fare, he has always been renowned for his willingness to explore any subject unabashedly: this particular selection is proof. Once I was able to ignore the flimsy lyrics and the title’s purposely trendy spelling, I found the music lively and imbued with intensity—just don’t look for anything imaginative in its verse.
Bundling songs together, “The Way I Roll” and “Waiting” are pleasant and interesting. By contrast, however, they don’t have the sustained edge that the songs surrounding them have; both songs also lack an immediate hook. Listen for yourself and make your own determination to see if they grab you.
The moody, quirky “Tomorrow” has touches of Tate’s distinctiveness; the song builds momentum stylistically and allows the vocalist to work at a level he’s quite comfortable at, illustrating that his prized vocal cords are still amply powerful. I would have been even more thrilled if the song had a few more verses — Tate could have worked in more of his magical sound. The song, as I hear it, tends toward a potentially dramatic finish but then suddenly plateaus without the big finale I was craving. “Tomorrow” is a compelling, heartfelt single nonetheless.
Likely based on a treasured memory, “Evil” boasts opening and closing riffs reminiscent of Queensrÿche’s 1990 hit, “Last Time in Paris,” which was featured on the “Adventures of Ford Fairlane” soundtrack and played regularly on the Building Empires Tour. The snappy title, vigorous melody and Tate’s sporadically raspy singing make “Evil” all-around fun.
“Dark Money” is, in my opinion, Kings & Thieves’ hit single. Its radio-friendly groove encapsulates pure rock and roll. Tate’s vocal delivery is effectively prominent and dazzling. Though I perceive this track as radio station fodder, other selections on this album, if given somewhat frequent airtime, could easily gain this release some much-deserved recognition. “Dark Money” will whir in the listener’s head indefinitely. It’s got just the right vibe.
“These Glory Days” brought me sensations of nostalgia. The infectious, funky beat, generally heavy and rock-like, is similar in tone to that of “Grain of Faith,” a fan favorite from Geoff’s first record. The message also calls to mind that earlier song. When it comes to creating rhythms which alter the perception of what rock is and what it is not, Tate has met the challenge time and time again during his much-celebrated career.
“Change” captures a chillingly emotional atmosphere. Theatrical elements are abundant from start to finish and the heightened shift in tempo about halfway in elevates the quality of the instrumentation. Even though Tate sounds strong and poised throughout, toward the closing moments, when the music seems to be persuading him to summon the best of his craft, I would have enjoyed hearing him stretch his range a bit more. Still, though, when I think about the live presentation of this particular track, amongst others, I can see the audience holding their lighters high, swaying back and forth and taking in the quality and showmanship that is Geoff Tate.
On November 6, 2012, treat yourself to a copy of Kings & Thieves and bring in the splendor of autumn with the sounds and concepts of one of rock’s most esteemed artists.
10/17/12 – Newton, NJ @ Newton Theatre
10/18/12 – New York, NY @ The Jewel – Rocks Off Concert Cruise Series
10/19/12 – Rochester, NY @ The Montage Music Hall
10/20/12 – Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance
10/21/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ JC’s Washington House
10/23/12 – Springfield, VA @ Empire
10/24/12 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theatre
10/25/12 – Teaneck, NJ @ Mexicali Live
10/26/12 – Amityville, NY @ Ollie’s
10/27/12 – Chesterfield, MI @ New York New York
10/28/12 – Akron, OH @ Ripper Owen’s Tap House
10/29/12 – Akron, OH @ Ripper Owen’s Tap House
10/31/12 – Milwaukee, WI @ Shank Hall
11/01/12 – Barrington, IL @ Penny Road Pub
11/02/12 – Columbus, OH @ Alrosa Villa
11/03/12 – Bolingbrook, IL @ Tailgater’s Grill
11/07/12 – Calgary, AB, Canada @ Southern Jubilee Auditorium (*with Alice Cooper)
11/08/12 – Saskatoon, SK, Canada @ TCU Place (*with Alice Cooper)
11/09/12 – Moose Jaw, SK, Canada @ Mosaic Place (*with Alice Cooper)
11/11/12 – Medicine Hat, AB, Canada @ Medicine Hat Arena (*with Alice Cooper)
11/13/12 – Dawson Creek, BC, Canada @ Encana Events Centre (*with Alice Cooper)
11/14/12 – Edmonton, AB, Canada @ Northern Jubilee Auditorium (*with Alice Cooper)
11/16/12 – Vancouver, BC, Canada @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre (*with Alice Cooper)
11/21/12 – San Antonio, TX @ Backstage Live
11/23/12 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
11/24/12 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
11/27/12 to 12/1/12 – Shiprocked
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